WEST, Texas — About 60 people remained unaccounted for after the explosion at a fertilizer plant here, but authorities remain hopeful that number reflects not a significant loss of life but the difficulty of tracking down people who have been hospitalized or who may have taken shelter with others.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, revealed the number of missing Friday after visiting the area devastated by the explosion. Cornyn was joined by two congressmen, and the three lawmakers described the damage inflicted by the blast at West Fertilizer Co. on Wednesday night. Twelve firefighters and other first responders are believed to be among the dead. At least 160 people are believed to have been injured.
Cornyn said he saw a firetruck crumpled by the blast and a crater where there had once been a cement foundation. Near the plant, he said, there were "still smoldering materials there on-site."
As the lawmakers visited with residents, they noted warmth and a positive spirit, as well as the generosity of others as donations — food, clothing, shoes, blood drives — have poured into the community.
Cornyn, speaking at a news conference, recounted something he said a West native told him earlier in the day: "Saying you're a Texan doesn't just describe where you're from. It describes who your family is."
Such sentiments, Cornyn added, "speaks to me volumes about how this community came together in the light of this tragedy. One of the things you find in a terrible time like this is that people step forward, they offer their hand to help, and it provides a lot of comfort and reassurance during a difficult time."
Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas, who represents the area, echoed that sentiment. He said he was inspired by the attitudes of those he met and felt a swell of pride for his state. "Talk to the people around here and you ... see the can-do spirit, which is all about Texas," Williams said.
The state's other Republican senator, Ted Cruz, continued that theme and alluded to the bombings Monday at the Boston Marathon. "You are being lifted up in the prayers of millions of Texans, millions of Americans, and people around the world," Cruz said of the people in West. "The same is true for the city of Boston, Mass. When we face great adversity, we come together and stand together, and we're doing that today."